Canadian Forces troops have wrapped up their flood work in Souris and Manitoba's premier is offering them heartfelt thanks.
Nearly 400 Shilo-based soldiers had joined volunteers in frantically raising and reinforcing dikes to prepare for another crest on the Souris River, and Premier Greg Selinger said Tuesday that Manitobans appreciate their difficult and dangerous work.
The soldiers are leaving now that fears of major flooding have begun to ebb. The river is only expected to rise another few centimetres overnight, officials said.
Steve Topping with Manitoba Water Stewardship said dikes in the town have just over a metre clearance and are holding.
The river "will stay at this high level for about a 24-hour period before it drops, so it's almost at crest now," Topping said during a flood briefing Tuesday afternoon.
"They have approximately four feet ([1.3 metres] of freeboard on those dikes. The forecast [came] in a little lower — two feet lower than anticipated — and they build two feet [0.6 metres] of freeboard in all our dikes."
Steve Ashton, Manitoba's emergency measures minister, said he's optimistic the town will escape the third crest of this season without more damage.
"It's a real achievement that we've been able to see these dikes raised up and we are prepared for the third crest, the record crest coming through the Souris," Ashton said. "It's now a question of watching it as it comes through and staying vigilant to protect those dikes."
In any case, Ashton said, the town couldn't be more prepared for the floodwaters, thanks to a heroic effort by volunteers and the Canadian Forces. The water will likely stay high for days to come as the river slowly subsides, he added.
Earlier Tuesday, the crest forecast was downgraded by about a metre in the latest flood bulletin from the province.
"[That] means there is more freeboard on the dikes — there will be more room between what the top of the water will be and the top of the dike — which gives additional protection," Selinger said.
The peak passed through the town of Melita on Sunday and was barely noticed. The town, located in the southwest corner of the province, was the first Manitoba community bracing for the surging river, which has caused destruction along its path through Saskatchewan and North Dakota.
The crest in Melita was about 0.6 metres higher than the spring peak of 4.4 metres, but officials didn't realize it had topped out until the level started dropping on Monday.
Mayor Bob Walker said the level was lower than what provincial officials had told him to expect.
The town is on a higher elevation and was not expected to experience as much flooding as Souris, where residents have spent the past two weeks furiously putting together sandbags after witnessing the river's rage elsewhere.
In Minot, N.D., the water reached levels not seen in 130 years. It breached dikes and submerged more than 4,000 homes. Farther upstream in Saskatchewan, where the Souris begins, much of the village of Roche Percee was also inundated.
Topping has credited minimal rain in the Souris River basin and warm weather in recent days for reducing the crest forecast.
But the river is still extremely high and cresting for the third time this year. If not for the dikes that have been put in place — so long as they hold — the damage would be extensive.